A Statistical Foray into the Funkification Ratios that Separate Folly Beach, SC from the Isle of Palms and Sullivans Island (Not to Mention Kiawah)

bill's art installation

photo by Caroline Tigner Moore

To say Folly Beach is peculiar is to say the sun is hot, night is dark, and that Marty Feldman never graced the cover of People magazine as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”  After all, Folly Beach is – in the now famous phrase coined by my friend and former boss Bill Perry – the Edge of America.[1]

marty

the late great Marty Feldman

 

I’ve always liked the sound of the word peculiar. According to my very own OED  (whose print Superman with telescopic vision would have difficulty decoding), peculiar comes to English from the Latin peculium, originally meaning “property in cattle.” That cow over there – let’s call her Elsa –  belongs to US Representative Devin Nunes. She’s peculiar to Representative Nunes in that she’s his alone. She’s peculiar to him.  But it’s also peculiar that Devin Nunes is suing the cow known as “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” I’m not making this up. [2]

Over time, as words are wont to do, the definition of “peculiar” branched out from the pasture of private ownership and took on the meaning of being different from others. Not surprisingly, being different acquired somewhat of a negative connotation, because to many, especially those intent on keeping up with the Joneses, being different (or unusual) is often not a good thing.

No PR person would ever come up with the phrase “Edge of America” to promote Kiawah Island. Kiawah doesn’t mind being different in an exclusive or unique way, but it certainly doesn’t want to come off as edgy, and it’s succeeded. Kiawah is about as edgy as Jack Nicklaus.

Not to be confused with Jack Nicholson.  I remember seeing an interview with Jack Nicholson not long after the actor Hugh Grant’s arrest for solicitation. The interviewer (maybe Barbra Walters) asked Jack why someone rich and good-looking and married to a beautiful woman (i.e., someone like Hugh Grant) would require the services of a prostitute.

“Peculiarities,” Jack said with his trademark leer, “peculiarities.”

So another denotation of peculiar  – actually the number one denotation – is “strange or odd,” like walking in “polka dots and checkered slacks,” to borrow a phrase from Elvis Costello (and to avoid examples of possible outré sexual inclinations that might have prompted Mr. Grant to seek peculiar connubial pleasures outside the bounds of his marriage).

Good God, I’ve wandered far afield from paragraph one. Actually, what I want to know is what makes so Folly different from its barrier island neighbors, the Isle of Palms and Sullivans Island?  What is it about Folly that makes it so peculiar?

folly pc

IOP pc

 

usa-south-carolina-sullivans-island

To attempt to find the answer to this ultimately useless question, I did some googling on Yahoo (mixed metaphors is where it’s at) and compared the demographics of the three island communities.[3]

Population:

Folly Beach  2,623

Isle of Palms 4,322

Sullivans Island 1,921

That tells us not much at all, except that Folly is the median and the mean population is 2,955.

Racial Composition

Folly Beach  White: 99.32%  Black 0.68%  Asian: 0%  Others 0%

Isle of Palms  White 94.75% Two or more races 2.85% Black 0.25% Asian 1.47%  Others 0%

Sullivans Island  White 97.11%  Two or more races 0.93% Black 0.28%  Asian 1.07% Others 0%

Who would have guessed Folly is the least diversified?

Median Ages

Folly Beach 49.7 (43.7 for males, 58.4 for females)[4]

Isle of Palms 56.2 (58 for males, 54.7 for females)

Sullivans Island 48.1 (45.8 for males, 49.6 for females)

Once again, Folly is the median.

Education

Folly Beach

Less than 9th grade 0% , 9th to 12th  1.98%, HS grad 11.05%, Some College 23.17%, Assoc. degree 4.29%, BA/S 38.25%, Graduate degree 21.27%

Isle of Palms

Less than 9th grade 0% , 9th to 12th  0.32%, HS grad 11.84%, Some College 14.05%, Assoc. degree 2.49%, BA/S 40.83%, Graduate degree 30.48%

Sullivans Island

Less than 9th grade 0% , 9th to 12th  0.77%, HS grad 4.95%, Some College 11.13 %, Assoc. degree 3.34%, BA/S 41.93%, Graduate degree 37.88%

All three probably better educated per capita than similar sized SC towns.

Income

Folly Beach

Average overall $49,495 ($65,714 male, $38, 324 female)

Isle of Palms

Average overall $53,782 ($74,714 male, $46,161 female)

Sullivans Island

Average overall $62,750 ($103,947 male, $38,913 female)

Wow, the average Sullivans’ male makes $38, 233 more than the average Folly male, the difference being a mere $91 less than the average Folly female salary. Is that peculiar? No, it’s what you’d expect.

Conclusion

So let’s face it. That was a waste of time. If you’re going to come up with an answer, demographics aren’t going to help. You need to go maybe to history or —

Wait, Caroline just popped into the drafty garret to ask what I was up to, so I told her I was trying to determine via demographics why Folly was more peculiar, funkier, than the IOP and Sullivans.

“More barstools per capita,” she immediately said.

Damn!  Being so much smarter, why in the hell do women make so much less than men?

Yes, Caroline: Planet Follywood, Sunset Cay, the Washout, Jack of Cups, Drop-In, Loggerheads, the Crab Shack, the Surf Bar, Taco Boy, St. James Gate, Lowlife, Wiki Tiki (or whatever it’s called), Rita’s, the Tides, Snapper Jacks, Chico Feo.

I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out – and except for one, none of them smack of commerciality.


[1] Wisely, Bill copyrighted the phrase.

[2] https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-10-20/abcarian-sunday-column

[3] All data is from the World Population Review website

[4] Re. the wide gap in medial ages for males and females on Folly: I remember going into Planet Follywood several years ago where the clientele was quite a bit older than the folks gathered on the rooftop bar across the street. Planet Follywood is old school, caters more to locals than tourists. Anyway, sitting across the bar from me was an older woman – and by older I mean Methuselahian, way over the 14-year difference between male and female in the Folly data above. I noticed her looking over at me, excessively batting her eyes, in almost cartoon coquetry. I hate to be ageist, especially given that I myself am an aged man in a paltry thing sort of way, but being hit on by what very well might be the daughter of a Spanish-American War veteran creeped me out. As I was getting up to go, I sneaked a peek at her and discovered that what I had deemed flirtatious winking was actually some sort of spasmodic tic.

 

Off Folly Beach’s Beaten Path

rusted rooftop

I’ve never been one for neatness – in my dress, in my handwriting, in my housekeeping, in my prose.  I blame this lackadaisical attitude on the South’s losing what a few of our stubborn old folks still insist on calling “the War Between the States.”  Don Doyle’s fascinating study New Men, New Cities, New South: Atlanta, Nashville, Charleston, Mobile, 1860-1910 details Charlestonians’ postbellum refusal to do business with Northerners, unlike the folks in Atlanta and Nashville, who resumed trading with the victors and flourished.  Meanwhile, on the coasts, we sat around with empty pockets talking about the good ol’ days while the paint peeled from the clapboard of our houses.  With no money to keep up appearances, the heat aiding and abetting our lethargy, we became tolerant of  a certain sleepy seediness.  There are many exceptions, of course, but I am not one of them.

I prefer hodgepodge to uniformity, black-eyed susans to manicured lawns, the eastside to the westside of Folly Island (though the westside also has delightful pockets of funkitude). Although you constantly hear how Folly has changed – and it has – many homes and lots tucked away on the east side from Second to Ninth retain a rustic tinge – a vibe I have come to call paradoxically rural Folly.

Here’s a brief tour

clothesline 4

rusted wheels

vine house

the hanged man

I do not find/ The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.

8th st lantana

legalize it

Now that the majority of the mainland has been barred from the island, things are extremely quiet, no ear-splitting sirens, no whooping and hollering, no thumping bass notes blasting from climate killing jacked-up trucks.

Sigh.

Folly Post Office (original)

Protestant Carnival

 

Alas, even though Folly Beach is the Edge of America, even though it’s the mostest bohemianest spot in South Carolina, it is, nevertheless, Protestant.  You gotta have Lent to have a good carnival.  At a Protestant Mardi Gras parade, like on Folly Beach, they ain’t no nudity, so the closest thang we got what I’d call Dionysian is the purple headed chick on stilts on this here video.

All the same Bontemps, y’all.

 

Chico, Feo, Folly Beach’s Cannery Row

Not to be over-self-congratulatory, not to be so much hipper-than-thou, but brothers and sisters, if you ain’t hanging at a proletariat bar at least once in a while, you missing out.

Chico Feo, my personal cannery row, boasts a clientele of regulars that rivals the characters in a Jerry Jeff Walker song.[1]

Last Sunday, for example, I spent a couple of hours conversing with Brandon, an official member of the Lumbee tribe of Robeson, North Carolina. In Summerville, when I was growing up, these Native American offshoots were targets of scorn, denigrated as “half breeds,” “Summerville Indians,” or “brass ankles.”

(If you got the time – or better yet you should make the time – read Jo Humphreys’ Nowhere Else on Earth and learn about the Lumbees and Henry Berry Lowery. We’re talking Robin Hood-meets-Swamp Fox Civil War swashbuckling. Also, vicariously, you experience the trials and tribulations of being that breed back then. It’s historical fiction at his finest.

Anyway, Brandon has the Confederate battle flag tattooed on his left side beneath his shirt somewhere (in honor of his father’s ancestry) and Indian iconography tattooed on right arm and fist (in honor of his mother’s).[2]. He also whipped out his official tribal ID card and explained what the dates signify on the tribal ring he proudly wears. The bad news is that I doubled the couple of All Day IPAs I had planned on and abandoned my essay-grading regimen.

The conversation began with me talking about the ‘60s history course I’m trying to teach, and he told me he was really into Nam, that his two favorite Viet Nam movies are Platoon and Apocalypse Now because Platoon captures the day-to-day grind of warfare and Apocalypse Now the insanity.

He should know. He’s served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Brandon

Four days later, I met Brandon’s former roommate Kenny, who a few months ago had his motorcycle rear-ended in the wee hours on Arctic Avenue by some drunk woman supposedly going 70.[3]

It was touch-and-go for a good while, and after months of hospitalization, this was his first appearance back to Chico. The staff essentially abandoned their posts momentarily to shake his hand.

Kenny, too, has Indian tattoos, the word letters I-N-C-A tattooed on the space above his finger joints and knuckles on his left hand. He now lives with his fiancée Miranda just off the island and wears the beatific smile of a survivor. I stupidly told them how lucky they were, told them about losing Judy.

Believe me; they get it.

* * *

Best quotes of the week:

Me: Got this pal in NOLA with a one-room condo, so when you come to visit him, he’ll put you up in a hotel because the money he saves by having a one-bedroom condo saves him so much money he’s happy to foot hotel bills for his guests.

Jason: Got lots of friends living in cars saving all kinds of money, and they won’t even buy me a fuckin’ beer.


John, sitting at the bar, struggling to fetch his cigs from his pants pocket.

Jason: The ladies expect tight pants these days; if you can’t get your cigarettes out of your pants, so be it.


Walking Joel: Guess what my mom got at Harris-Teeter? Grapes, man, and you know what? They taste just like cotton candy! You close your eyes. Put one in your mouth, and I swear, even though it’s a grape, it tastes just like cotton candy.

John (cocking a skeptical eyebrow): So how many pounds of this stuff did she buy?

Walking Joel: Blocks, man. They come in blocks.

One more, Jude, please.


[1] I’m too lazy to look up to see if “clientele” is considered singular or plural. Calling Catherine Salmon, my very favorite grammar maven!

[2] And, yes, he is painfully aware of the paradox of the clash.

[3] Which frankly defies credibility.

The Death of the First Summer of Act 3

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”


Now that I’m not hanging in the Social Security office or at the estate law offices of Kuhn and Kuhn (whom I robustly recommend) or the Charleston County RMC office, I have in the last couple of weeks been able to revert to being a simple beach bum.

It’s the life of Jimmy Buffett, sans the Hawaiian shirts – it’s sandy, gritty, humid, free.

Had a great weekend just past. Gave my first surf lesson in four years on Saturday and spent part of the Sabbath promenading Walt-Whitman style up and down Center Street where I bantered with a twangy husband and wife with matching calf tattoos.

Saturday evening as I was leaving Mosquito Beach, an old black man with a walking stick stopped me, climbed onto the hood of my car and lay spread eagle with his back against the windshield.

After maybe ten seconds, he hopped off laughing.

Once on his feet, he performed the old-fashioned roll-down-the-window cranking pantomime and welcomed my companion and me with a friendly greeting laced with f-words. He was happy; we were happy.

The night was just getting started. Fun ahoy!

But now, just when the summer has become like a sort of typical summer for me (i.e., not teeming with post-mortem to-dos), it’s time to stick a fork in it. Next Thursday, I need to show up not-hungover at my school and begin my 32nd year of striking through linking verbs and offering alternate phraseology. Pontificating about the great linguistic blessing of William’s kicking Harold’s ass at Hastings. Tapping talkers in chapel on the shoulder to shut them up.

Anyway, this, my last week, I’m going to embrace it, to rage, rage against the dying of the reggae riff.

Chico Feo on a December Saturday

Around four today, I went down to Chico Feo with my 9th graders’ summer reading book and annotating pen in hand. A loudmouthed young man (i.e., early forties) smoking a cigar at the bar asked if there were any other “hidden gems” around the beach. Greg, the bartender, said, “We generally don’t like plugging the competition.”

But then Greg caved and mentioned the Jack of Cups, adding, “It’s not really hidden though.”

The cigar-chomper started talking about how cheap everything was down here compared to Ohio — even downtown Charleston in the touristy places — and just when I was getting ready to reposition myself out of earshot, Jeremy, one of the cooks, sat down beside me.

Unfortunately, you don’t get to know the cooks at Chico Feo as well as the bartenders because, duh, they’re in the kitchen rassling up Mahi tacos or a noodle bowl or a batch of curried goat.

I’d talked to Jeremy before a few times on slow nights and knew he was from Louisiana. I told him I was headed to New Orleans in early September, and he said that he’d just gotten back from there yesterday. He and his extended family had spent ten days on the southern coast fishing, eating, and drinking beer. He said that the youngest of that clan were teenagers and one of his parents had chided him for using foul language in front of them. “I try to use polite language when I’m in polite company,” he said, “but I’m never in polite company,”

We had a wide-ranging conversation in which I discovered Jeremy has a way with words, a sharp wit. He had a roll of blue tape with him, and I asked him what it was for, and he said, “labeling things in the kitchen.” He said he had been looking for the tape all day. “That’s why I like living alone,” he said, “because I know where everything is.” This reminded me that in my recent widowerhood, I had developed an incredibly efficient way to load the dishwasher.

Me: Do you have a dishwasher?

Jeremy: No, I don’t have any dishes.

We started about talking about New Orleans, and he asked me if there was anything specific I was going to do, and I said I was definitely going to hit the Rock and Bowl, which, as it turns out, was one of his favorite high school hangouts because back then the drinking age was 18, he was tall, and never carded.

“Tell me about a cool spot I should go?” (asking like the Ohioan for the inside scoop on hidden gems).

“Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge.”

Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club

I’ll leave you with one last of his witticisms. Greg was emptying ashtrays with a pair of vice grips, and I said, “Man is a toolmaker, a user of tools.”

Jeremy said, “or just a tool.”

So with that, I bid this Monday a fond farewell, will saunter downstairs (saunter’s a stupid verb, by the way) and have a chat with John Jameson.

Was Follygras a Disaster or Perhaps Not So Much So?

Aging punks too lazy/cheap to dye their gray/white hair descend on Folly Beach

Aging punks too lazy/cheap to dye their gray/white hair descend on Folly Beach

I fear that Trump’s propensity to amp up his descriptions past hyperbole’s red line might be politically contagious.

A sampling of blaring Trump[eted] overstatements from the last debate before the election:

Our energy policies are a disaster.

Your regulations are a disaster, and you’re going to increase regulations all over the place.

We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster.*

Not surprisingly, these “disasters” have transformed our once great nation into a hellscape where billionaires have to scarp over a higher percentage of their wealth than they did before Obama to fund health insurance for the poor.

Carnage!

Kiawah Island, the barrier island just south of Folly.

Kiawah Island, the barrier island just south of Folly.

[cue impatient cough]

Okay, okay, okay, back to my main point concerning contagion. Folly Beach’s mayor, whom I like just fine and would vote for tomorrow, has declared last weekend’s city-sanctioned Carnival street party known as Folly Gras “a disaster.”

You can see footage of the festivities here (with the extra attraction of hearing a soundtrack featuring the Wild Tchoupitoulas).

Trigger warning. If inconveniences and non-lethal foolish human behavior drive you to despair, you probably don’t want to read the following list of off-putting occurrences that when totaled = disaster.

The Post and Courier reports that Department of Public Safety Director Andrew Gilreath cited numerous problems with the festival, where his officers arrested 21 people and wrote 29 citations for “[l]itter, extreme drunkenness, disorderly conduct, underage drinking, public urination, narcotic use, indecent exposure, drunk driving, etc.,” [. . .]. “We could have arrested 100 people and not made a dent, and that was just within the confines of Center Street.”**

C’mon, Tim. Remember Hugo? That was a disaster. The Japanese earthquake that destroyed the nuke plant was a disaster.

Words matter. What we had last weekend on Folly was merely a shitshow – or in the words of the Public Safety Director — “a perfect storm that happened because of the combination of sunny skies, unseasonably warm 80-degree weather and the popularity of the festival.”

Folly after Hurricane Hugo

Folly after Hurricane Hugo


*Writing tip for today: “Disastrous” can be a handy, economical adjective for writers wanting to liposuction flaccid phrase-fettered verbs-of-being like “are and “was.”

** No telling what those aging hippies on the dirt road section of Huron were up to!